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news 10 Oct 17

Hardline Clerics Savage Kosovo's First Pride Parade

The first ever Pride Parade in Kosovo, due to take place on Tuesday, is drawing fierce opposition and derogatory language from some Muslim clerics and from parties close to them. 

Die Morina

Some hard-line Muslim clerics in Kosovo have condemned the announced first Pride Parade in Kosovo, which is set to take place on 2 October in Pristina.

One imam of a mosque in the village of Shipol near Mitrovica, Fatmir Latifaj, has published a video using insulting expression about the LGBTI community and voicing deep opposition to the planned parade in Pristina.

Using a vulgar insult for gays, he accused them of “staining our history, which has been written with blood” during a sermon in the mosque. “An Albanian does not become a f---t”, he continued, using the same term.

Another imam, Husamedin Abazi, has published a video titled “The week of shame” referring to the “Pride week”.

The imam accused all the organizations acting on behalf of the Pride Week of working day and night to destroy mankind.

“We all are for human rights. But those that are in the disfavour of mankind should not be seen as human rights,” he said.

After the organizers announced that the Pride Parade called “In the Name of Love”, would take place in Pristina, the leader of a religious political party also used direct hate speech – which Facebook later deleted.

Gezim Kelmendi, leader of Fjala [the Word], a small religious party, wrote on Facebook that those who should hold parades in Kosovo should be the police or the Security Forces, as people who protect the country, not those who destroy and spread “disease”.

“Homosexuals ruin and destroy our country and our people. They aim to spread this disease in our country and present it as something normal in the name of democracy,” Kelmendi wrote. “Homosexuality as a disease is the main enemy of the family in particular and all of mankind in general because homosexual couples cannot give birth,” he added.

Teuta Hoxha, a Pristina-based human rights activist, said clerics routinely abuse the country's freedom of expression.

"Considering our society, with all its ethnic and religious divisions, the hate speech they use plays an important role in worsening tensions,” Hoxha told BIRN.

She accused government institutions and civil society groups of keeping silent about reporting such insults “with few exceptions”.

The organizers of the parade, the Kosovo Centre for Equality and Liberty, CEL, and the Centre for Social Group Development, CSG, told BIRN on Wednesday that they had not received any direct threats so far.

However, they agreed that hate speech is routine in almost all articles published online about their activities.

“There are comments that urge hate or even call for the murder of members of the LGBTI community and their supporters,” CEL told BIRN.

According CEL, “as Kosovo is a very homophobic country, we knew that we would face such comments. This is exactly one reason why Kosovo needs a Pride Parade - for such persons to be exposed directly to the movement of LGBT community, to see there is nothing to be scared of or hate".

Police confirmed to BIRN that they were officially informed about the planned parade. “Depending on the situation, the Kosovo Police will take measures [to secure the route],” the spokesperson of Kosovo Police for Pristina, Florie Ahmeti, told BIRN.

The parade will be supported by the government. Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj attended the opening ceremony of “Pride week” and his office confirmed to BIRN that if he does not come personally, some representatives from the government will be part of the parade.

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